Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce

woman at desk on her computer shifting skills

The pace of change has accelerated such that jobs are more disrupted today than ever before: we consider this period to be the Great Disruption, a workforce phenomenon that exists alongside the Great Resignation and the Great Recalibration and likewise demands swift and thoughtful action by employers and other stakeholders. Of course, not every job is getting disrupted uniformly—to the same degree, at the same rate, in the same way. Leaders and decision makers need to understand what skills their organization needs and how to access them. Essentially, they need to capture a moving target.

We investigated what is actually happening, at both a high level and in detail for select, broadly relevant job categories. We identify macro trends in the evolution of job skills and offer leaders, employees, educators, and the public sector the clarity they need to create strategies that will enable them to get ahead of the Great Disruption.

To develop a sense of how skills have changed across jobs, we looked at the top 20 skills underlying each job in the Lightcast database and how they have evolved since 2016. Overall, 37% of the top 20 skills requested for the average US job have changed since 2016. One in five skills (22%) is entirely new. And certain sectors—finance; design, media, and writing; business management and operations; HR; IT—have changed faster than others.

Our Exec Summary extracts key points and calls out the most intriguing data.

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We spotlight Human Resources, and three other job families seeing outsized disruption in the market.

The fact is, HR holds a unique position: the skill and job changes in every job function require the attention of HR, even as the HR function itself is being transformed. We see three key trends in the skills required of HR practitioners: emphasizing data and digital, sourcing talent in new ways, and leading and engaging stakeholders. Unsurprisingly, the most disrupted job on our list of highly disrupted HR roles is the talent acquisition/recruiting manager.

Over just five years, skill change has been rapid and wide ranging. In some occupations, it has been overwhelming. There’s a need to seek talent with new skills, to reskill and upskill employees, and to train and develop those in search of jobs. And all of this must happen while the skill profiles of many jobs continue to morph—it’s a moving target.

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